While some students traveled far afield during this year’s Field Academy term, Tali Friedman ’18 found adventure and fodder for her passion for marine science close to home, using the three-week period to intern at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, New York. She was able to experience caring for animals, from tropical fish to penguins, as well as learning more about the wildlife in our local waters.
Tali’s days were long but rewarding. Her typical morning started with cleaning the many fish tanks in the facility, the names of which she had to learn on her first day. “I had been to the aquarium many times as a young child,” she recalled, “but I needed a little bit of a refresher. As I explored the aquarium, memories of my different trips there danced in my head.”
After the cleaning came feeding: “We fed the tanks a few different varieties of food. Depending on the type of fish, they either got freshwater mysids, saltwater mysids, cyclops, krill, sand eels, or silversides. Each tank received a different type of food, as well as a different amount. The amount depends on the size of their mouths.”
Another important job was caring for the adorable penguins, including cleaning their after-hours habitat and paying attention to their feeding habits. “It is very important to know if a penguin’s eating habits change,” Tali explained, “as it is a main way to tell if something is wrong with their health.”
Between caring for the sharks, penguins, and reptiles (oh my!), Tali set up her own small saltwater tank to monitor fish behavior and water content. Tali said she noticed the ammonia level rise on occasion, adding, “I was expecting this, since when fish go to the bathroom they excrete ammonia.” She also learned a lot about octopi: “I learned that they typically live for about two years, and they are insanely smart! They can learn how to open jars, open water bottles, lift up lids, and go through mazes to get to their food.”
Tali’s supervisor said that although the aquarium typically reserves intern positions for college students, they took a chance on Tali and were “very impressed” with her dedication and professionalism.
For more about Tali’s marine adventures at the aquarium, check out her Field Academy blog!